We are taking book requests on our companion website. You can request books here. Make sure, you are following the rules.

Butt-dialing the Billionaire: Chapter 3


“Twenty minutes!” somebody calls out.

“We got this,” I say.

Rockabilly seamstress extraordinaire, Renata, pushes a pin into her wrist-held pincushion before pinning a quick dart into the fabric, careful not to poke Size Ten Tina. Tina is every Manhattan design house’s most beloved fit model thanks to her awesome proportions, standing-still abilities, and gossip skills. You never want to stick her.

We’ve been here since five in the morning, racing to adjust our two-piece women’s run wear sample. Things have to get out to the factory for quoting ASAP or we’ll blow our chance with Target.

Renata calls out some numbers and I get on the tablet, adjusting the pattern.

We would’ve had this done days ago if it weren’t for Bert Johnston, our horrible new CEO, who forgot to pass along some key information we were waiting on.

Bert was installed by the giant faceless corporation that bought our company last winter. He knows nothing about the garment industry, and he fired a lot of our best people.

Rising to the post of senior designer here has long been a dream of mine, but I wanted to earn it from hard work, not from my beloved mentors getting fired.

Dave from accounts comes out with a selection of energy bars from the vending machine. Dave has a talismanic belief in the power of energy bars, and he so wants to help. Everybody in the design department knows how important this thing is.

“I’ll eat when I’m dead,” I whisper, fingers flying over the screen.

“You two are killing it!” Dave says. “Savage.”

Renata snorts. Dave is so sweet. Everybody here is. We’re a family, and nothing Bert does will take that away from us.

Unless he succeeds in destroying the company. Sometimes it seems like that’s his goal. But why would you deliberately sabotage the place you were hired to oversee?

Renata ties a quick knot. “Good?”

I take a look. “Good.”

“On it.” Lacey changes the material allocations.

Furious murmurs and texts suddenly ripple through the office.

“No way,” Renata says.

“No, no, no, no!” I whisper.

“Bert alert,” Dave says in a low voice, beelining back to his desk. Bert alert means Bert’s been spotted heading down the hall. People scramble to look busy like birds fluttering frantically in front of an oncoming tidal wave. If Bert thinks you’re not working, you’ll get a demerit. If you get three demerits, you’re fired—no unemployment, no insurance, no nothing.

Bert’s been like a man on a mission, handing out demerits.

“Conference room!” Bert barks as he bursts through the door. “Mandatory, all-company call. Now.”

Lacey goes up to Bert, clutching her notebook, looking terrified all the way to the roots of her purple hair. “W-what is this about?”

“A new generation of the Eadsburg von Henningslys is taking over Wycliff, and there’s an important introductory address,” Bert says, broad cheeks glowing pale pink under the stark lighting. He is a big man, an ex-football player with a crew cut and intensely scrubbed-looking pink cheeks, almost porcelain-looking in certain lighting.

“Um… Who are the Eadsburg von Henningslys?” Lacey asks.

I wince. I know what Lacey’s doing—she’s trying to stall Bert, trying to give us time to finish up and hand the package off to the bike courier who’s currently waiting down on the street.

“The family that owns the Wycliff corporation? SportyGoCo’s parent company? AKA your employer?” Bert barks, in a tone designed to suggest she’s the biggest fool ever.

“A new generation?” Lacey asks, playing dumb.

“The son’s stepping up. Some kind of Euro race car driver.” Bert claps his hands. “Come on, people, get in there.”

Design team members scurry past, hoping to avoid Bert’s wrath.

It’s here that Bert turns his attention to Renata and me. “This isn’t optional.”

I keep working. “We’re just wrapping up this package. Fifteen minutes. This is our bread-and-butter line for—”

“Not optional,” he interrupts. “Demerits for anybody who’s not there in two.”

“Can we finish this up in the conference room while we listen to the address? If we don’t make the cutoff, we’ll lose all of this work.”

“And whose fault is that?” Bert demands.

It’s like he’s daring me to say yours. “Staff only.” He turns to Size Ten Tina. “Out.”

Tina gives me a sympathetic look and heads off to change. I choke back my tears. A sure-thing Target slot: Gone.

“Sorry,” Renata whispers to me, standing. She can’t afford another demerit—she already has two.

So do I.

There’s a mocking light in Bert’s eyes. “Thirty seconds.”

Devastated, I grab my phone and follow the rest of the staff into the conference room.

Months of work. My first flagship design.


The full design department—all two dozen of us—are assembled around the conference room table, dead silent, expressions grim.

Bert looks on smugly, a vampire feeding off of our low morale, then heads off, presumably to make sure the rest of the departments are being prevented from doing anything productive.

Whispering starts up at the far end and I can distinctly hear the words gotta get out of here and fuck this.

SportyGoCo was the best place to work before the Wycliff-pocalypse.

There’s a rumor that if our sales numbers don’t rise in a matter of weeks, they’re closing the company.

The speakerphone crackles. We’ve heard these addresses before—they’re ridiculous and buffoonish. Some old guy who loves the sound of his voice, and you’re supposed to be grateful, I suppose.

“We’ve built this place and we can save it. We’re a family,” I say.

No response. People just look defeated.

My heart twists. This group here saved my ass more times than I can think, especially when I first came to the city, naïve and bewildered. And when it became clear I’d never earn an actual living as an actress, they helped me channel my passion for fun clothes into a career.

Aside from Bert, any one of these people would give me the shirt straight off their backs, and I’d give them mine.

Or more like I’d make one that’s even better, full of sequins and sparkles, and give them that.

“A new generation taking over,” I say. “Maybe it’s good news. Maybe the younger generation will make things better.”

“Yeah, it worked great in North Korea,” Shondrella says. “Oh wait, umm…”

“A European racecar driver billionaire,” Lacey mumbles to our side of the table. “Like, seriously?”

“It doesn’t matter who runs that thing,” Renata says. “These sorts of people own so many companies, they can’t even name them all. Nothing will change.”

“And we still have Unicorn Wonderbag,” I point out. “We’ll get to work on Wonderbag, and everything will turn around.”

The speakerphone crackles. A man comes to announce there will be an announcement. He talks about what a good thing it is to have a steady hand in times of turbulence.

“Which turbulence?” somebody grumbles. “There are so many turbulences.”

“Who can keep track?” somebody else jokes.

The voice on the speaker talks about the company history, and finally introduces Jaxon Harcourt Eadsburg von Henningsly. The five-part name gets an eyeroll.

Jaxon Harcourt Eadsburg von Henningsly, our fearless new leader, begins to speak in a beautiful baritone voice. Too bad the things that this beautiful voice says are every bit as pompous and ridiculous as every other speech from the billionaire Wycliff owners, or as we call our parent company: the “why not jump off a cliff?” owners.

My heart sinks as the son spouts phrases like, “soldier on in the face of adversity” and “do not despair but rather square your shoulders in the direction of the future.”

Back when the evil, faceless Wycliff corporation first took over and started up these ridiculous addresses, people would make finger-pointing-down-the-throat gestures and self-stabbing motions.

And I would look at them scoldingly, because I’m the senior person now, the mom of the design department.

Now they don’t even bother to make the gestures. That’s how deeply everybody’s spirit is crushed.

In real life, I’m not that professional or mom-like. At home with my girlfriends, I can be silly, but one thing doesn’t change and that’s my work ethic. I always like to be achieving, whether it’s making videos of our apartment building or doing a bit part in one of my friends’ weekend plays or making food or saving this company—and my fashion design career.

Professionalism is a muscle that anybody can build—that’s what I always say. Act as if. Right? But I always make sure to wear one sparkly thing, like a pin or a belt or a shoe ornament.

Jaxon Whatever-von-Henningsly drones on about how he’ll continue the leadership that we’ve grown to respect and admire.

I can feel morale plummeting like a thousand anvils off a thousand Road Runner cliffs. Another obnoxious out-of-touch owner a universe away.


They said this son was European, but he definitely has an American accent. Is that what rich people do? Live in different places? I would never up and move like that. A person needs roots. They need their people.

On he drones, “We shall turn our gazes toward a productive future, full of pride and promise and joint prosperity.”

It’s so outrageous, considering they’re destroying this company.

Shondrella makes a half-hearted self-stab. Her self-stab says, why even bother with a self-stab? Shondrella’s going on four decades in the design business, and she says she’s never seen a design house go downhill so fast.

“Continuing the exemplary leadership…”

I catch Lacey’s eyes. She’s exhausted. She looks like she’s going to cry. She has the most to lose of anybody here.

All at once, I’ve had enough. I’ve hit my limit.

I don’t know what possesses me, but I start to mouth along, pretending to say the words that the pompous son is saying.

“Soldier on through thick and thin,” I mouth along to the speakerphone—badly. I clap on a dorky expression.

Lacey snorts and claps a hand over her mouth.

Actual laughter. It’s music to my ears. When did I last hear laughter at SportyGoCo?

I mouth along some more, and suddenly everyone is laughing. I’m sure it’s a shock to them—it’s so unlike me to show my fun side at work.

Still. I haven’t heard laughter in this office for too long. It’s like the life and camaraderie are rushing back into people. I glance over at the closed door. Well, what’s the harm in a little bit of morale-boosting silliness to take the edge off of today’s devastating Target debacle?

The son drones on.

I stick my pointer finger up into the air and rock my head from side to side. It’s stupid, but who cares! The speech is stupid! I’m making a face; I’m flapping my jaw.

People are laughing. Shondrella is practically rolling on the floor.

It’s almost sad when the fancy-pants owner ends his fancy-pants conference call.

The team is still looking at me, wanting more. So I keep it going, outright impersonating the guy now, saying all the rich-person things I can think of. “What’s more, as reward for you to soldier on, I shall send each and every office a jar of Grey Poupon mustard!” I’m fully channeling my inner actress now, right down to the baritone.

“Please square your shoulders and wash away adversity as I wash my teeth with my silver toothbrush!” I’ve added a foofy accent. The son has a nice voice, but the dad had an upper-crust accent, and the accent is funnier.

“Please do not despair,” I continue. “I shall indeed hire the worst people to oversee you and even that won’t stop you from your awesomeness.” I look all around. “Wait, where is my Grey Poupon? I’m a billionaire, I must have my Grey Poupon!”

It’s so dorky, but people are laughing their heads off. Dave is lying faceup on the conference table.

I rack my brain, trying to think of more rich-person things to say. “Please bring me my silver and diamond-studded nose hair device. I shall lead this company through thick and thin, but not without my nose hair device!”

Renata hits me in the shoulder. “What is that, even?”

I have no idea, but that isn’t stopping me. “Quiet, peasant!”

She hits me again—hard. She does this rockabilly roller derby on the weekends and has more strength than she knows.

“Quick, fetch the servants, I now need some smelling salts. Where is my cravat? Where is my Foppish Ascot?”

I can literally feel the togetherness in the laughter. I can feel the love, the camaraderie. This is why we stayed. We are a family.

“If I cannot drive my Foppish Ascot 3000 in the NASCAR race, I will truly despair!” I continue.

“What’s a Foppish Ascot 3000?” Lacey asks.

“It’s a race car,” I emote. “That I shall drive to joint prosperity.”

Right then a voice breaks through the speakerphone. “What the hell?”

We all freeze.

The voice is Jaxon Harcourt Eadsburg von Henningsly.

“I don’t know,” somebody on the owner’s end says.

“Shit!” Dave whisper-yells as he lunges for the table and stabs the speakerphone buttons.

We all freeze. We’re a conference room full of statues.

“Did that just happen?” Renata whispers, barely moving her lips. “Because I think that was the new owner.”

I swallow. There’s no sound except for the buzzing in my ears and everybody’s horrible silence.

“I must’ve sat on the speakerphone when I sat on the table,” Dave says.

“Wait! We’re okay, though!” Lacey says. “It didn’t go company-wide. There’s no way.”

“Oh, good, just the owner and his people heard it,” Dave says.

“I’m so sorry,” I say.

“We were all laughing,” Renata says. “We’re all in trouble.”

Two dozen eyes turn toward the door. Bert’ll hear about it and come in any minute to fire somebody.

“We are so screwed,” somebody says.

“I’ll confess,” I say. “I’ll take the blame. I won’t let you guys go down for this.”

“No, listen,” Lacey says. “There is no way they can pin it on us—that’s not how this phone system works.” She sits back down—she tires easily these days. “A callback to Europe will say the SportyGoCo Inc. main number on the caller ID. They can’t tell the department. There are ten departments and five hundred employees in this building. They’ll never know it was us.”

“They’re gonna figure it out,” Renata says. “That call was so us.”

I wrap my arms around myself. “God, what have I done?”

“It was the funniest thing ever!” Renata says.

“Also, I mean, that accent!” Lacey says.

“Screw them. Nobody’s gonna tell,” Dave says. “We got your back, Jada.”

“Pact!” Renata says. “Solemn pact. We never tell. It never leaves this conference room that it was Jada.”

I groan.

Shondrella gets in my face here. “You are always so professional and positive, Bert’ll never guess it. Nobody here will tell. Nobody will guess—got it?”

“All we have to do is nothing,” Renata reminds everyone. She pulls out her bloodred lipstick and applies a nice, thick coat. “It’ll drive them nuts. It’ll be fun.” She snicks the little tube shut, like punctuation.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


not work with dark mode